The Archaeology Data Service (ADS) are a UK-based organisation who exist to preserve digital information related to archaeology, as well as promote and disseminate the data. They’ve just announced that they have made their one millionth record available on their ArchSearch catalogue.
It may not be the United Kingdom’s most well known archaeological site, but
for the ADS it represents a significant landmark. The site of Keavil Dovecot
in Fife is the subject of the one millionth record to be made available via
the ADS Online Catalogue – ArchSearch. (Dr Stuart Jeffrey, User Services Manager, Archaeology Data Service, 4th April 2006)
The amount of information on the ADS website is staggering and varied. From simple summaries of archaeological sites, to PDFs of site reports, to full-blown dataset downloads, it’s a must for anyone interested in archaeology in the UK. You can also search their records via a map interface, which uses clear Ordnance Survey mapping, which is useful.
More and more archaeological units are submitting their reports electronically, which can only mean that it will become (if it not already is), the prime location for searching on archaeological information. Importantly, since they are also an archive, they aim to keep data “fresh”, that is migrate it to new formats as they become available, meaning that no more strange proprietary files whose software has long since ceased development.
Long-term preservation and management of digital data is vitally important, if data is to be useable in the future, and “data refreshing” to latest formats is one of the ways to do this (along with backups, and refreshing data to new disks).
One other thing that the Archaeology Data Service do, is ‘real’ computer archaeology (no, they don’t dig them up! Well, not that I’ve heard 😉 ). They collect old systems (Amstrads, Ataris etc etc), recondition them, and pop them away in a ‘museum’ for safekeeping, in case any old data surfaces on piles of dusty floppy discs or tape – they can have a go at recovering it on contemporary hardware (and crucially, software). Have a look at their list of recent acquisitions (and get in touch with them if you can help!).